I broke nearly every rule as a social media newbie
And, I got flamed for doing it. It wasn’t fun, but it helped me understand, fairly quickly, that online communities are no different that real-world communities in many ways. They all have their own cultures, themes, causes and rules…many rules. And, the most challenging thing is…
Many of the most important rules are unwritten
Now, since I am someone who’s, more than once, championed people joining online communities, I figured I also have a responsibility to share a bunch of the unwritten rules that are common to many social media hangouts. So, here are my…
Top 7 unwritten rules for social media newbies:
- Upload a profile image A.S.A.P. Social media is innately personal, people want to literally “see” who they’re connecting with. So, be sure to upload either an image of you or something you feel represents who you are. This let’s gives people a better feel for who you are. But, there’s another even more important reason for this. Not having an image associated with your profile show you don’t know the rules of the game or may not be an active user, both of which scare potential friends, followers and relationships away.
- Fill out your profile. Again, this is especially important if you want to find and friend/follow people who don’t yet know you. Because, the first thing they’ll do is go and check out your profile. Nobody wants to start a conversation with a blank screen, so put SOMEthing there, even if it’s just a little bit and, if you blog or have some other site, add the link. If someone I don’t know asks to friend me and I visit their profile and there’s no image or profile info, I’ll just move on. Just like adding a headshot or image, sharing profile information also shows that you “get” the culture of social media.
- Ease your way in. Different people join different social media communities for different reasons. Some for conversation, some for connections, some for favors, some for platform building, marketing, blah, blah, blah. Whatever your reason for joining, take your time easing into the community. Observe the conversation, the tone, the nature of thoughts, comments and questions an invest a bit of time understanding the culture of the community, before you dive in with your own thoughts, ideas, questions and comments. Nobody wants to be “Doesn’t Get It Interjecting Guy.”
- Give more than you get. Once you have a feeling for the culture of whatever online place you’ve chosen to hang out at, give more than you get. Never begin your time in any online community by asking for favors. Give without asking for or expecting to receive anything in return for a while, before ever thinking about dipping into the favor well. It’s good karma, good community-building and good business.
- Add value. Not that every word out of your mouth has to be brilliant (we all know that’s not the case with me), but do your best to make sure your contribution has some value. What the heck do I mean by “value?” How you define value is specific not only to the larger community, but to the immediate group of people you’ve friended or followed. So, if you’ve connected with a gaggle of extended family members on Facebook, value might be new photos of your kid. On the other hand, if you’re hooking up with potential business connections on LinkedIn, those same images might get you labeled as someone who just doesn’t get it and stop people from connecting with you.
- Grow organically. Take your time developing your gathering of friends or followers. It’s really easy to get excited about a new community and go on a friend-adding tear, but remember, the quantity of friends you have doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of friends you have. So, if you want to add a ton of friends, at the very minimum, make sure you are doing it because they have similar interests, friends in common or some other quality that genuinely makes you want to learn more about them or be their friend. And, spread your friending out over time. Adding a ton of people a very short time after joining a community or following way more people than follow you reads as spammy. And, in some communities, like Facebook and twitter, it will even get you banned.
- Heeeellllpppppp! Okay, gang, here’s where I need your help. I’ve got a lot of ideas and observations, but I just know you all have some great things to share as well. So, help me finish this list. Give me your #7 in the comments below. Oh, and BTW, getting your community involved and interacting with them is a great thing to do, too (drats, I think I just added my own #7, okay, now it’s your turn).
So, this is just a started list. I know you guys have more. let’s all contribute our collective knowledge to make joining and growing within an online community as fun and fulfilling as possible.
Add yout thoughts, ideas, experience and unwritten rules about online communities and social media below.
Or, just share some observations or stories.
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